The Best Breathing Exercises According to My Yoga Instructor

Over the past few weeks, my apartment has been plagued with sickness, stress, and all sorts of mishegas, so it got me thinking, what are some ways you deal with stress? I’ve heard everything from meditation to pole dancing, but recently I was taking a yoga class and I realized something that I enjoy so much, but often take for granted, breathing.

Obviously, we couldn’t do anything without oxygen but isn’t this one of the most essential forms of self-care? Slow and intentional breathing is a tool that literally can be used anywhere at anytime and you don’t need a fancy schmancy class or instructor to help you learn some easy tips.

The Bay area has such an interesting culture that glamorizes stress to an extent that if you are not stressed, then you are just not successful—isn’t that weird? I got to talking with my yoga instructor from YogaWorks Palo Alto about breathing techniques and all of the ways they benefit our lives. Below are some tips to help you dismantle the over-glamorized stress culture we live in and hopefully will encourage you to breathe a little deeper and live a little simpler.

The Lions Breath

You will physically change once you do this breathing exercise and all of a sudden become your favorite Lion King character—like, immediately. The lion breath or Simhasana Pranayama encourages a sudden release of energy through your body and invites playfulness into your life. You simply inhale deeply through your nose and then tilt your head back slightly and open your mouth widely to exhale loudly, while sticking out your tongue. This one might look a little odd if you are sitting in the airport waiting for your flight and you all of a sudden stick your tongue out, but go for it, be bold like a lion.

The Breath of Fire

This is one of my favorite pranayama breathing exercises because it causes a warming effect to your body and increases your energy levels. Start by sitting tall, inhaling gently through your nose, then vigorously pump your exhale out through your nose while pulling your navel in repeatedly and in short spurts. Sound like a lot? It’s really easy, with each pull inward of your belly, you should exhale quickly. With your last exhale begin your next inhale a little more deeply and with more force each time.

The Skull Cleanser

Also known as Kapalabhati Breathing, this guy is another one that will raise your energy levels but is virtually the same as the breath of fire except with a larger emphasis on your exhale. This one is done with your arms straight above your head to promote lymph circulation through your upper body, and while you can just leave it there, some yogis like to add a hand mudra to the technique to help you invoke various things.

Three-Part Breathing

Looking to de-stress and unwind? Three-part breathing is a slow and smooth process that helps relieve anxiety, insomnia, and stress. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your navel. Inhale into your chest and then your upper abdomen and then into your belly, this should cause you to puff your belly out like a balloon. Slowly release your breath, in the same way, smoothly exhaling the air from your belly and then your upper abdomen and then your chest.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This is a good one for those of you who want to de-stress and also trying to bring some clarity to your mind. Start off by simply closing one nostril and inhaling through the open nostril, then when you are ready to exhale switch nostrils and close the one you inhaled from and exhale through the one previously closed. Then inhale through your open nostril and repeat the process until you are finished with your breathing exercise.

Bellows Breath

This is one I had never done in a yoga class but one that I do regularly because I enjoy being loud and doing weird things in my apartment when no one is there. Inhale through your nose with your arms up and fingers extended wide, exhale quickly through your breath and drop your arms elbows bent to your diaphragm. You should make a loud “HA” sound. Don’t be afraid to get loud and get silly. This is a great waking up morning breathing exercises or even excellent for when you are feeling sluggish throughout your day.

Ujjayi Breath

The most simple and commonly used for its grounding, stress relieving, and simple approach to breathing. Simply inhale and exhale through your nose slowly and gently. Try to keep your breaths long and slow and almost create a hissing sound through your inhalations and exhalations.

Do you know any more interesante breathing techniques or simple ways to alleviate stress throughout your day? Leave some comments below and who knows, maybe your comments will turn into future posts for the world to read.